Wednesday, June 26, 2019

An Artist's Statement

In my recent readings, I came across an article that discussed the need for an artist to have "an artist's statement."  The author wrote that a statement drives one's art to make sense and it keeps one's art unified.

How do I come up with my artist's statement?  First, I will make a list of my WHYS and HOWS. I also need to list what's important to me in my painting. Those will help me solidify my focus and purpose.

WHY do I paint?
  • Because I can - and because I like it
  • The process is enjoyable - not in a "Wow! This is fun!" way but in a "Wow! I can see progress!" way.
  • I enjoy looking at my artwork on the walls.
  • After feeling incapable of decent art for so long, I still feel enormous satisfaction (and surprise!) when I look at a painting I've created that speaks to me - that moves me in some way.
  • I like connecting my art with moments and people in my life. The feelings of nostalgia and reminiscing are strong in my art. A painting has to mean something to me.
  • I like the challenge of taking classes or watching videos, and then I enjoy taking what I learned and applying it to my own art.
  • I remember clearly a moment in April when I was at PACE19 in San Francisco, walking back towards the bus from the ridge at Lands End, looking at the scenery and all the artists scattered around painting and thinking, “I LOVE this!”  
HOW do I paint?
  • I take a LOT of photographs. I'm always on the lookout for scenes I want to paint. I use the camera on my iPhone. 
  • After I settle on a photograph I like, I print it out in color.
  • I use the photograph as a reference as I paint.
  • If I'm doing plein air painting, I narrow my focus as much as possible so the painting doesn't become too busy.
  • I still take a lot of photos - even with plein air painting.  It lets me capture a moment in time to hold the light for however long it takes to complete the painting. 
What's important to me when I paint?
  • I must have a connection to what I'm painting.
  • I want my art to be "painterly" - meaning I want it to look like a painting.
  • I like a little quirkiness in my art. I want to see brush strokes and layers of paint - texture. I want colors that may surprise and seem out of place at first glance but then bring the scene together. Maybe "quirky nostalgia" would be my buzzword.
  • When the connection to the painting is strong, I often deepen that connection via poetry. That has become one of my favorite aspects of my art - joining the visual art with the written art.
My Studio
  • I've set up a studio in what was formerly the bonus room in our home.
  • Because of back issues (back surgery a few years ago), I sit when I paint. I can walk all day, but I can't stand still for a long time. So I've set up three "stations" in my studio.  I have my oil painting station, my acrylic painting station (used most often by my granddaughters), and I have my framing station. Each station has a desk with a chair. 
  • I don't worry about getting paint on the carpet - or the chairs - or the desks.  It's an art studio. When Ron and I are gone, whoever buys our house can replace the carpet and repaint the walls.
It is interesting reading back over what I've written. I've spent a couple hours, thinking through all this and writing it down. I just went back over what I've written and highlighted certain sentences/phrases in green. Those are the key statements about my art. 

My artist's statement is something like this:
I connect my art with the people, experiences, emotions, and places in my life. I strive for my art to evoke a sense of nostalgia and reminiscing - but also contain a little quirkiness.  When people view my art, I want them to feel a connection. My style is "painterly" with visible brush strokes and texture. One of my favorite challenges is to incorporate poetry whenever a painting is particularly meaningful to me. I love combining written art with my visual art.
It’s definitely a work in progress, but it’s a good start. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A visit to my Mother in Georgia results in two new paintings!

I got home yesterday after spending a few days with my mother in Georgia.  On the drive to my mother's house, I passed many scenes that I could have photographed and possibly painted.  However, one barn in particular was so pretty with the sun shining on it that I pulled over to the side of the road and took a few photos. After I got to my mother's house, I set up my easel in her breakfast room and started painting.

You might wonder why I would paint at my mother's house.  It's because it's a very tender experience! She always comes in and sits next to me and watches me as I paint - asking questions and making comments. To her, I'm a magnificent artist, and she's interested in how I create paintings. It is a pure blessing for me - just a couple months away from the big 7-0 birthday - to have my mother (who is 96) still here to cheer me on as an artist. So whenever I visit my mother - I paint, and I treasure every second of that special time with my mother.

Here is the painting of the barn in Alabama. Since I wasn't very far from Fort Payne, I named it "Sweet Barn Alabama."
"Sweet Barn Alabama" Oil on 11x14 canvas panel  
After I finished the barn painting, I asked my mother what she would like for me to paint. I've already painted a vase of yellow silk roses that she has on a long "camp meeting" table in her family room. And I also painted some of her miniature church collection.  Those two painting are below.


My mother said she'd like to have a painting of a basket that she'd bought for 15 cents when we lived in Kentucky in the early 1950s. That basket has been on display in every single house she has lived in since then. She also mentioned some fresh hydrangeas that one of my sisters had brought her earlier that day. They were a pretty pink color, and my mother loves pink. The next day when my niece was visiting, I asked her to help me set up a still life with the basket and hydrangeas. We set out the basket, put three hydrangeas in the basket, and then, since it needed something more, we added a wooden book stand that my mother's brother had made for her, and on the book stand we put a Greek Bible that belonged to my father, along with a cross-stitched book mark that another sister had made for my mother. We put the whole thing on a table with a blue tablecloth. Here is the painting of that still life. What I like best about this painting is that the basket is immediately recognizable as the basket I've seen all my life.
"The Kentucky Basket"  16x20 oil on linen panel
The background is a pale blue - which doesn't show up well in the above photograph. My mother is already planning where she will put this painting.  I brought it home to let it dry, to varnish it and frame it. Then I will give it to her.

So a few days at my mother's - and two new paintings.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sunset in Alabama

A high school friend of mine posted a photo the other night of the sunset where she was.  The photo was beautiful with the oranges and yellows of the sunset reflected so beautifully in the lake below.  It reminded me of the trip to Alaska that Ron and I took with Lily and Sophie three years ago. We saw ponds and lakes so still that the snow-capped mountains beyond them were perfectly reflected in the water.

So I messaged my friend and asked if I could use her photo as a reference to paint the scene. She agreed, and I immediately started painting. I finished it earlier today.  Last night, after I'd blocked it in, I went online and researched information about painting water reflections.

At an art show I attended last month, I saw a painting with an interesting textural component that really appealed to me. It wasn't "dotting" with the paintbrush, but it was similar to that - building up the paint by dabbing it onto the canvas.  So I experimented with that technique in the trees for this painting and achieved a similar texture. Not exactly the same, but it created an effect I really like.  This is oil on 9 x 12 linen. And I have to say that I actually like my trees in this painting.  So maybe that new technique will be my lifesaver when it comes to trees!


I haven't given this painting a title yet. I need to ask my friend where she took the photo.  I plan to send the painting to her after it dries and I get it varnished.  

My Monday Plein Air Painting Group

My friend, Sheryl, and I have started plein air painting together every Monday. Each week we've gone to different places and painted. It's great practice, and it gets me actually painting.  

On our first week, we went to the farm of Roy, a friend of ours.  He has a lake in front of his house - with a little covered walking bridge, and then a barn. The location was beautiful, but I am not pleased with this effort at all. I will probably paint over it at some point, or maybe I will try to salvage it. The walking bridge is leaning - and so is the barn. (Carol, get the perspective and basic outlines right before starting to paint!!!!) The banks of the pond are way too "perfect," and don't even get me started on the pitiful trees. However, still it was great practice.


Then we went to the farm of a well known ball player. Ron had met him, and so he gave us permission to paint this log cabin on his farm. He, his wife and kids came by while we were painting and chatted with us for awhile - such nice people!  I like this painting. I would've liked it better if I'd put the house on the other side of the painting or at least not in the bottom corner.  Sheryl was painting the same scene, and I wanted to make mine different. Lesson learned - Paint what you want to paint - two people can paint the same scene from the same perspective - and the results will be different.

The next week we went to Radnor Lake in Nashville.  Several other artists from The Chestnut Group went with us. I had painted this scene last year, but I still painted it again but from a different perspective.  My trees are awful. I'm not happy with this painting at all.  Not sure what I'll do with it.


 After we got home from Radnor, I looked at some of the other photos I'd taken, and I painted this next painting from one of those photos. It's one of the walking trails there, and I like this painting much better. I still need lots of practice painting trees.


Our Monday painting group is growing. It started out as just Sheryl and me. However other people are joining us, and it's a lot of fun.  It's invaluable practice.

At the End of a Road in Tuscany

I've been painting a good bit so far in June. We started off June at Disney World in Orlando. June 1st was our "day off" after visiting all the parks the previous five days. So part of my family spent the day at Universal Studios, another part played Frisbee golf, another part went to shoot sporting clays at a local gun club, and I stayed at the condo and painted.

As I looked through the photographs that I'd printed out to use as references, I decided to paint a scene from our trip to Italy in March. I wanted to paint the little church out in the country with the overgrown steps going up the side, and with a forsythia in full bloom behind a tree. I remember when Ron and I drove down that little road, we saw the old church, and we drove past it, we saw the steps - vines and moss growing over the steps - and the top was obscured.  Then, from the side of the steps, peeping out from behind a tree, was the forsythia. Forsythia has always been one of my favorite flowers. It seemed to be a metaphor for new birth amidst the old and neglected.

Here is the finished painting, and I have the say, this painting is near the top of my all-time favorite paintings that I've done. When I was adding the lighter yellows to the forsythia bush, I realized that the bush is right smack in the middle of the painting - a big no-no in the art world . . . except I like it in this painting. I know the rule - I broke the rule.  When I started painting the scene, I thought of the steps as the focal point - and I had them exactly where I wanted them - off center.  However, as I painted the forsythia bush, I realized that it had become the true focal point rather than the steps. So I'm pleased as I can be with this painting - and I'm happy I broke that rule.  :-)

At the End of a Road in Tuscany, oil on 12x16 linen

And, of course, since I loved this scene so much and since it means so much to me, I wrote a poem to go with it:

 At the End of a Road in Tuscany

At the end of a road in Tuscany
Beside a neglected church made of stone
We found steps leading to an upper room
With tangled vines and moss overgrown

At first they appeared alone and forgotten
Abandoned - as seems often with the old
Yet peeking out from a tree at its side
Forsythia bloomed in yellows and gold

Such is this life as our years increase
We often grow weary and battle worn
But off to the side, we look and we find
A new springtime waiting to be born

~Mary Carol, June 2019~


Friday, June 7, 2019

Being My Own Art Teacher

At one of the demos I attended during the Plein Air Convention in San Francisco in April, the presenter/artist (can't recall her name) talked about how painting the same scene several times can help you become a better painter.  So I chose this photo that I took on the way to the Viansa Winery outside of San Francisco. It was an old boat sitting in a field of flowers. Who knows why it was there.  It was pretty, though, and so I took a bunch of photos of it.


The first photo below was my first attempt. My goal was to paint quickly and without getting bogged down withe details. I had difficulty getting the boat right, and the flowers look exactly like what I did - just dabbed an orangey-white color all over the grass. 


The second try was better.  I actually got the boat name (Edith) on the boat.  The boat shape STILL isn't right, though - although it's not bad.  The flowers look a little better. Still not happy with it - although this is my favorite of the three paintings I eventually did.

After painting the scene twice, I thought I'd do something different - I'd do it entirely with a palette knife. Hmmmmm. Some people can make gorgeous paints using only a palette knife. I don't know if I even want to develop that particular skill. Palette knives use a LOT of paint - and I have a LONG way to go to make it look right. I got this far with it and decided that palette knife painting isn't for me. So I stopped.  It is interesting that the color didn't look right with the palette knife, and I have no idea why since the tool used shouldn't affect the color - and I was using the same palette of colors as I did with the other two paintings.

Looking at these paintings, I know I need to make the boat a little smaller to make it appear further back in the scene. Most of all, it doesn't LOOK like I want my art to look. I am being too literal in some ways and not literal enough in other ways. I'm still working to develop Mary Carol's art.

I decided to stop after these three tries.  I threw away the palette knife version and will probably throw away the first version as well and only keep the second one. I don't have the stamina or desire to paint the scene a fourth time.  LOL!  I don't think painting the same thing more than a couple times is appealing at all to me. It was a helpful practice, though, and I kinda/sorta like the second painting.

Back to the demo from the PACE19 class. The point was that by painting the same scene repeatedly one, in effect, becomes one's own art teacher - seeing more clearly what needs to be worked on and improved.  I probably should paint this scene a fourth time and follow Kevin Menck's mantra of painting the big shapes and values and see how the scene will emerge. 

Paint Us! Paint Us! - a painting by Candy Crawford Day

One of the blessings of getting involved in the art community is the opportunity to make connections with other artists. I once wrote that p...